Mother–Child Interactions at Six Months Postpartum Are Not Predicted by Maternal Histories of Abuse and Neglect or Maltreatment Type

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Abstract

Objective: A history of childhood maltreatment (CM) is associated with increased rates of maternal psychiatric symptoms and other adverse outcomes in adulthood among postpartum women. However, to date only a few studies have examined associations between CM and mother–child interactions among a nonclinical sample of postpartum women, and the specific potential influence of the type of abuse or neglect is poorly understood. This study was an aim to examine the relationships between CM types and observed parenting in a nonclinical group of recently postpartum mothers with maltreatment histories. Method: Participants were 173 postpartum, nonclinically referred mothers oversampled in the community for CM histories (n = 123, 72%) and their infants who underwent high- and low-stress interactive tasks during their 6-month postpartum visits, which were videotaped for later independent coding on hostile, controlling, and positive parenting. Mothers also provided information on demographics and type of CM they had experienced (i.e., emotional, sexual, physical abuse, and neglect). Differences of maternal parenting by history of CM and specific type were analyzed via 2-way univariate general linear models. Results: Inconsistent with a priori hypotheses, no significant differences emerged between overall CM severity or exposure to any particular CM type and hostile, controlling, or positive parenting in the high- or low-stress tasks. Conclusion: Findings suggest that nonclinical postpartum women with CM histories show resilience regarding postpartum parenting quality and do not differentiate from non-CM maltreated postpartum mothers. We discuss the potential influence of resilience, moderating factors, clinical implications, and recommendations based on our findings.

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